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Perception and legacy of soil chromium and lead contamination in an operational small-scale coal mining community
Abu Reza Md. Towfiqul Islam,

Operational small-scale coal mining (OSCM) is one of the most significant sources of chromium (Cr) and lead (Pb) pollution in Bangladesh. Attempts to minimize or lessen the use of Cr and Pb in OSCM have shown unsatisfactory results, mainly because they need to address the sociotechnical complexity of pollution concerns in OSCM. This research adopts a multidisciplinary, sociotechnical approach to addressing Cr and Pb problems, coupling soil sampling for Cr and Pb with questionnaires of miners' and inhabitants' perceptions of pollution and its distribution. The study was undertaken in the Barapukuria coal basin in northwest Bangladesh. Except for mining areas (average of 49.80 ± 27.25 mg/kg), Cr levels in soils exceeded the world average in the periphery (73.34 ± 24.39 mg/kg, ~ 1.2 times) and residential areas (88.85 ± 35.87 mg/kg, 1.5 times the world standard of 59.5 mg/kg). Pb levels in soils exceeded national and global averages in mining (53.56 ± 37.62 mg/kg, ~ 1.9 times), periphery (35.05 ± 21.77 mg/kg, ~ 1.3 times), and residential areas (32.14 ± 26.59 mg/kg, ~ 1.2 times) when compared to Bangladesh and global standards of 20 and 27 mg/kg. Pb levels were highest in mining areas, while Cr concentrations were highest in residential areas. The questionnaire findings indicated that miners and inhabitants did not correctly assume that the highest levels of Cr and Pb pollution would be found in these areas. Among all respondents, 54% are unaware of the health impacts of prolonged Cr and Pb exposure. They face respiratory problems (38.6%), skin diseases (32.7%), and other health issues. A large number of people (66.6%) agreed with the fact that Cr and Pb contamination has an impact on drinking water. Cr and Pb pollution has caused 40% crop loss and a 36% decrease in productivity in the agricultural sector. However, respondents underestimated the level of Cr pollution in mining areas, and most assumed that only individuals working directly with mines were impacted by the Cr and Pb content. Participants also rated the reduction of Cr and Pb contamination as of low importance. There is less awareness of Cr and Pb pollution among miners and inhabitants. Sincere efforts to reduce Cr and Pb pollution will likely be met with extra attention and hostility.

Journal or Conference Name
Environmental Geochemistry and Health
Publication Year